From Harold Wood to Colchester, thousands are moving from the hustle and bustle of London to Essex neighbourhoods. The reason? Open spaces, good schools, excellent travel links and, oh yeah, a certain TV show.
The Only Way is Essex may have finished airing in 2014, but it attracted millions of viewers (including a certain Chris Pratt) and put the county of southeast England firmly on the map.
If you're thinking of moving to Essex and, more specifically, Harold Wood, this guide is for you. In our latest area guide, we're looking at the RM3 postcode or Harold Wood and what it's like to live there.
On a map
A suburban neighbourhood of Romford, Harold Wood is locally situated within Essex but falls under the London Borough of Havering. It's located a little over 16 miles from Charing Cross.
History of Harold Wood
Harold Wood was named after King Harold Godwinson, who was defeated by William the Conqueror and was first recorded in 1237. Some of the original roads in the area were also named after kings, such as Alfred the Great.
Harold Wood's relationship with Essex has been complicated. Initially, it was part of the county before the ancient parish of Hornchurch formed the Independent Liberty of Havering, which sat outside of the county of Essex.
However, by 1892, Harold Wood was reincorporated into Essex. It remained in the county until 1965 when it transferred from Essex to Greater London. Today, it's officially in a London borough but still primarily considered an Essex neighbourhood.
Who lives there?
Harold Wood has a population of 12,650 according to the 2011 Census, with 51% of its population female and 49% male. The median age is 35, and many of the area's residents are young families. 37% of residents rent their homes.
Renting in Harold Wood
Even though the majority of people living in Harold Wood are young families laying down roots, the area is starting to attract a larger number of young, single professionals. The arrival of Crossrail in Romford has increased the appeal of Harold Wood and surrounding neighbourhoods.
In terms of property types, there are many semi-detached houses from the Thirties, as well as Victorian terraces. Rents are more affordable than inner-London postcodes, which is a primary appeal of the area.
Expect to pay, on average, £1,000 per month for a one-bedroom home in Harold Wood. Two-bedroom properties achieve in the region of £1,200 per month, and three-bed-and-up properties start from around £1,500.
Harold Wood travel
There's plenty of travel options for Harold Wood residents, including Harold Wood station with its direct services into London Liverpool Street in just over 30 minutes.
Romford station is also set to feature a stop on the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail), which will significantly speed up times in central London. Bond Street and Canary Wharf will be easily reached in 35 and 28 minutes, respectively.
Harold Wood Eateries
Head to The Ardleigh in Hornchurch and enjoy a classic pub that serves up a range of cask ale and craft beer, not to mention a lovely bit of the bubbly. There's also pub-grub favourites like haddock and chips and toad in the hole.
Whether you're after a leisurely lunch or more formal dinner, Kuzine has got you covered. Sample authentic Turkish cuisine in the form of mezes, grills, Tava (saucy dishes), vegetarian kebabs, vegan dishes and Istanbul wraps.
The Harold is another popular pub in the area and a big hit with the locals. There's a welcoming atmosphere at this watering hole, as well as classic pub food and ales. There's also live music and regular quiz nights.
Things to do in Harold Wood
Partake in a spot of fishing at Tylers Common, whether you're a pro or first-timer. Catch everything from 3lb Roach to 30lb Carp, 9lb Barbel to 12lb Bream or 200 lbs+ bags of carp off the surface.
Harold Wood Park
Go for a pleasant stroll in Harold Wood Park and admire lush grasslands, meadows and a river. Then get into competition mode and play a game of tennis, football or cricket at the sporting sites in the park.
With more than 270 stalls, you're bound to find a treat or two at Romford Market. It's open every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and sells just about everything from fashion items to groceries.
Moving to Harold Wood
A strong sense of local community makes Harold Wood a popular choice with many renters looking for more affordable properties than London postcodes. And with the Crossrail making its way to Romford, Harold Hill is a great option for those looking for a slice of the suburban life while maintaining close links to London.